So let me get this out of the way - I know virtually nothing about Pokemon. From what I understand, you train these little creatures you catch, and match them against others. And there's all kinds of intricacies and special skills and powers to learn and figure out. I am not an expert on any of that. But what I find striking about this new game is that it forces you (kids, us, one generally) to get out into the world.
In order to accomplish anything, you and your smart phone need to go out into the world and walk around. You have to visit places. You have to go exploring - and ultimately this probably means that you'll have to interact with other people, and be alert to your surroundings. In a world that is increasingly filled with screens, where we seem to be further and further apart because of our technology, this is sort of a fascinating thing. A game that forces you to get up out of your chair, leave the house, and go out into the world. You cannot play the game sitting at home. You have to get out - and go and be a part of this wide, strange, bright world we live in.
As a priest, I find this fascinating. Because this is just what the Gospel wants us to do. To get up out of our pews, up off of our sofas, and go out into the world to interact with it. To be in it - but not of it; but to be part of the world for Jesus. So, the goal of the game and of the Christian life are decidedly different - but I find the metaphor rather intriguing.
This new game is hugely popular. There are a ton of kids engaging with it - and some adults have started to play, too. People who never knew anything about Pokemon before are downloading the app and hitting the streets. It's a whole phenomenon - and everywhere I go - there are people walking around, looking around, and talking to each other about what they've seen and how they're doing.
It seems to me that we ought to be thinking about how we could make our faith so accessible - our quest for holiness some compelling - our love for God so palpable. I don't have the answers to these questions - but I think together we ought to be able to come up with some of the answers. Dare I say...should there be an app for that? (Sorry! Couldn't resist!) What can we learn from this new trend?
More to the point, perhaps, how can we train ourselves, like the folks playing this game, to see and interact with the world in a new way? How can we teach ourselves to be alert to our surroundings - to the chances we are given to love and serve our neighbors? And how can we re-think our interactions with the physical locations and people around us? Our cell phones won't necessarily vibrate to tell us to wonder about these things - like it does in the game when there's a creature to catch - so how can we help each other to really see?